Homemade Spaceship, a Tiny American Dream House

Last year, Kirsten Dirksen from faircompanies.com and I connected on tiny houses and her great videos. I then put out a request for you, my readers, to submit your tiny house videos to Kirsten so she could take them and assemble them into a completed project. Following is one of the stories that came from this request.

Kirsten told me she is in the process of completing another. Keep an eye out. I will post the next video in a couple of weeks.

Here is the story from Kyle and Jeannie.

Our story really quickly: My partner, Jeannie and I met five years ago – fell in love the moment we first talked and have been traveling the world together ever since. Well – not the whole world – we’ve mostly lived in India – with a few diversions here and there. The point is we’ve been living out of a backpack as nomadic artist type people this whole time. We’ve just returned from India actually – less than a month ago – and one night while wandering around the internet I stumbled on the Tiny House Blog. Two days later we had bought a utility trailer and have been working at a mad dash ever since to make our home.

Actually, we consider our tiny house quite the upgrade from being homeless and living out of a backpack – so in a sense we are different than most as we’ve never had so much space to think about (we bought a dutch oven today – you can’t carry a dutch oven in a backpack). Our plan is to leave Minnesota (where Jeannie’s mom’s house is) and head to Denver. We are going to buy a small pickup truck there – we have use of an SUV like thing until Denver – and then head south and live nomadically on public lands for the next year or two or five or whatever we feel like in our tiny home. We’ll be migrant artists – hitting up craft fairs, farmers markets and every gallery we come upon in order to support ourselves.

Thank you Kyle and Jeannie for sharing your story with Kirsten and with the rest of us here at the Tiny House Blog. I would enjoy an update down the road when and if you decide to settle somewhere and construct a small home. Happy travels! Be sure and visit their blog and Etsy Shop here to keep up with what they are doing.

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Anita - May 10, 2011 Reply

After living in your tiny house for awhile, how do you feel about the lack of running water? I see that the sink appears to be really just a bowl. How do you keep your bodies clean? We are trying to figure out how to do something similar and wondering how you handle that. Outdoor solar shower?

    Kyle - May 10, 2011 Reply

    Anita –

    We don’t have any problem with the lack of running water. We spent a lot of time in India and on extended backpacking trips with no running water and it’s just kinda second habit to us now. I find myself conserving water when I’m around running water now – I’ll use a bowl to catch the rinse water from one thing and use it for the next, etc. Kinda laugh at myself a lot. It’s really amazing how little water you need and how much is wasted when it is as simple as turning on the tap. I’m pretty sure that I could live happily for a week off the water I used in the shower I took this morning (we are sojourned at a friends house in southern Colorado for a moment).

    I think it’s a very humbling and informative experience to go without running water. When you have to physically fill up your canteens from jugs – that process of lifting these jugs and feeling the weight diminish really is something. The volume of the water is no longer abstract and you cease to think of water as an expendable resource. Every drop has many, many uses.

    There is also the climate consideration – in the southwest there isn’t much water and a lot of place we camp we don’t have any running water near by. We carry about 15 gallons of water in various jugs and you can stretch this to about 8 days.

    If we can augment the water with local sources – springs, creeks, etc – and only have to use the 15 gallons for drinking water then you are set for a long, long time. Even with this we often walk a long ways to fill up jugs of water every few days and again this process is very nice.

    For cleaning you can take a good bucket bath with half a gallon of water – it takes practice and a change of attitude but there is something very special about taking a cold bath standing naked out in the middle of the mountains.

    Likewise with washing dishes there are many shades of gray between the sterile dishes you get with hot soapy water and burnt beans on the bottom of a pan. Sand by itself will clean your dishes perfectly and you can get ALL your dishes “camp clean” with half a cup of water. It’s all in those in between ideas of how clean is clean and the shift of focus to hygienic concerns and away from spotless aesthetics.

    Now that we are headed up into the mountains water is really no issue so a solar shower would be perfect. A two liter water bottle painted black would be a cheaper alternative. I personally just use a bucket and cup.

    Water is the biggest limiting factor in our life so it’s very interesting this question. I could talk for hours about water. Our water supply is the limit of how long we can stay places – and when we can’t find any local water we watch over every single drop because a little bit of conservation can allow for a few more days between having to move to another location or drive someplace (hate driving).

    To answer your question in another way I’d say don’t worry about it and just try living with a jug of water and not using the tap. Cook a meal with just a Liter of water including the cleanup and you’ll get a better idea of what is possible and what is not – and also how spoiled we are having a tap.

    In the end the water situation shapes our life in a way which is not imaginable until you have to deal with it. When you are in ultra water conservation mode you cook in different ways, clean in different ways, drink different amounts of water, etc. It changes the whole rhythm of life.

    But this closeness to your resources is also one of the great joys and enlightening experiences which are gained by trying to live this way. In the most fundamental way it’s the goal of the project – living simply, conciously, happily – because a certain happiness is had just in something as simple as a bit of extra water which you couldn’t find even with a marvelous mc. mansion.

    Oh but then you get to camp by a running source of water and all bets are off and my feet even get there own two liter bottle of water and lots of dr. bronners every evening!

      Hazel - May 12, 2011 Reply

      With so many bad plastics out there, do you use glass or stainless steel containers for water or BHA-free plastics? Also could you tell us more about the foods you carry and prepare please? Where do you get fresh fruits and veggies? Do you grow any veggies or herbs in pots? Thanks!

Patchoulirose - May 10, 2011 Reply

I really enjoyed your video. You rarely see good quality video of people actually living in their tiny space. I totally get what you’re talking about when you say that it’s amazing how much time it takes just to start a new activity because of how things are stored. I’ve reorganized my Chevy Van mobile home so many times attempting to put what’s most used handy… but my activities vary soooo much and when I decide to do something I don’t want to waste time getting organized. Anyhow, thanks for this and if ever you come up Montreal, Quebec way do drop by for a visit please! You’re a lovely couple o’gypsies and it would be a pleasure to spend some quality time with you. Patchoulirose x?x

MJ - May 10, 2011 Reply

Wow. This is wonderful on so many levels. Carry on, you two, it’s a fine fine thing you’re doing! And thanks, Kent and Kirsten for getting this together in such a nice way. Just goes to show that less can be so much more.

alice - May 10, 2011 Reply

It’s wonderful to see a happy couple living a satisfying, fairly self-reliant life in their tiny home. Nice one! I love your sewing machine. I’ve got a treadle but the hand crank makes more sense in a small space.

mike - May 10, 2011 Reply

the hatchback part is cool, i’m sure it makes it feel a lot less confining…

Zer0 - May 10, 2011 Reply

I really liked this. If you need more storage for your kitchen utensils, you could always get kitchen magnetic boards, mount them on the walls, and stick your utensils on them.

Kelly - May 10, 2011 Reply

Wow! I loved this very informative video! What a great backdrop, as well. Thanks for showing such detail. Would love more info about the skylights. Did you use glass or plexiglass? What type of glue you used, etc. You mentioned you used varnish to seal in the toxins,on the floor, and I wondered if varnish didn’t have it’s own toxins, or if it was organic varnish. Just wondering. Can’t wait to see an update!

    Tim - May 10, 2011 Reply

    I believe they used Shellac not varnish. And I dont think they would have any issues with Shellac.

Gabrielle Songe - May 10, 2011 Reply

The video which let us see you as artists living in a very natural, self-reliant way is delightful. And it would be great to check back with you later to see what new experiences you’ve had with your home and travels. Best wishes.

Christina Nellemann - May 10, 2011 Reply

I watched this video about four times yesterday and was so charmed by your personal approach on the teardrop trailer. What a fun and brave way to live! I love your Etsy shop too.

Heather - May 10, 2011 Reply

Very nice indeed. Thanks for sharing your life with us. It reminds me of my days as a kid traveling and living in New Mexico and Mexico in our Volkswagen van. My father studied art in San Miguel D’Allende in Mexico. Good times. Love that stove too – where did you find it?

    alice - May 10, 2011 Reply

    I love that stove too, found this website http://www.fatscostoves.com/

      Kyle - May 10, 2011 Reply

      That is where we got the stove. The stove pipe and roof fitting are from a marine supply – can’t remember which. EXPENSIVE cause it’s for boats – but don’t want everything to burn down around you. The stove will burn for about 1 hour once loaded and red hot.

Heather - May 10, 2011 Reply

Very nice indeed. Thanks for sharing your life with us. It reminds me of my days as a kid traveling and living in New Mexico and Mexico in our Volkswagen van. My father studied art in San Miguel D’Allende in Mexico. Good times.

Foy Update - Garden. Cook. Write. Repeat. - May 10, 2011 Reply

When you said your stove was about one third of your budget it made me smile. When my husband and I were peace corps volunteers we spent about 1/3 of our “settling in allowance” (about $400 for the two of us) on a stove/oven combo that was hooked up to a 5 gallon gas tank. We had to bring it in on horseback. It was one of the smartest moves we made. We didn’t need it for heat, but the ability to make bread was such a comfort. Oh and it came in handy for baking our pillows to kill the mold and fungus that would start growing in them during the rainy season.

Hazel - May 10, 2011 Reply

Sigh…you make me wish I were young again with no cares, no worries, and no stuff! What an inspiration.

cj - May 11, 2011 Reply

I noticed the Sandy Katz book. Perfect for health but never gave thought that it also makes for small living/traveling.

Thank you for inviting me in to your home. How wonderful to see people truly living life. Hats off and best of luck!

Lauren - May 11, 2011 Reply

*sigh* With ukuleles, no less. How I wish I were young!

Suzanne - May 11, 2011 Reply

This reminds me of these little huts:

Going green sees new projects materializing


“It goes without saying that in this day and age, going green is more or less mandatory if you or your company wants to win brownie points with people around. Sure, we have solar powered cell phones and electric cars as well as the slew of recycling programs that you participate in on an almost religious basis, but what about the home that you live in?

You might have populated it with plenty of energy saving devices, but there is still much that can be done. In this aspect, there are several projects that we would like to draw your attention to concerning a green home, and they are the 365 livingARK, the LandARK concept and the epic 365 ark projects. To know more about them, head on after the jump.

First off, we have the 365 livingARK project…”

Julie - May 12, 2011 Reply

So cool! Did you guys work from a plan to build your little home?

Angelica - May 13, 2011 Reply

Kyle and Jeannie, such a breath of fresh air. It’s so nice to see people who have a vision and just go for it. I think people often get stuck with over thinking everything and aiming for perfection, but I think that misses the entire point of the movement. I really love what you’ve done and I’m sure the experience added something really special to your relationship.

Paige - May 13, 2011 Reply

Wonderful! Very Inspiring! Like Hazel, I’d like to know more about your daily food. Do you forgo perishables? Do you grow any of your food? Do you fish and/or hunt or are you vegan/vegetarian?
Thanks 🙂

Keith - May 30, 2011 Reply

How do you pay the bills?

JessieHanz - July 7, 2011 Reply

That’s a home sweet home.. It’s like a nest of two love birds.. Lol..

benjamin - July 9, 2011 Reply

If your ever in burnsville mn, id be glad to throw some gas shocks on that hatchback for you guys..

Ed Smith - October 31, 2011 Reply

I love your story. Carry on.

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